Pirate attacks greet the New Year

MV Bisaglia fires water cannon to try and repel invaders.

MV Bisaglia fires water cannon to try and repel invaders.

Somali pirates launched a wave of attacks on shipping over the Christ­mas and New Year period, with the hijack of five ships and attempts on others.

Hijacked ships included:

  • The Algerian-owned and flagged Blida was captured 150 nautical miles off Oman on 1 January. The 27 crew include Algerian, Filipino and Ukrainian seafar­ers.
  • The Mozambican-flagged fishing vessel Vega 5 with 14 crew was hijacked 200 nautical miles south west of Comoros in the Indian Ocean on 31 December.
  • The German-owned Antigua and Bar­buda-flagged cargo ship Ems River was seized 175 nautical miles off Oman on 27 December. The eight crew include seven Filipinos and one Russian.
  • The Taiwanese-owned fishing vessel Shiuh Fu No. 1 captured on 25 Decem­ber 120 nautical miles off Madagascar and now believed to be operating as a pirate mother ship. The 26 crew include Taiwanese, Chinese and Vietnamese sea­farers.
  • The Thai-owned Thor Nexus with 27 Thai seafarers hijacked on 25 December 350 miles off Oman. The ship is believed to have fended off an earlier attack on 22 December.

Other unsuccessful attacks included:

  • A pirate boarding of the German-owned CPO China off Oman on 3 January that ended following naval intervention. The crew of 20 Filipino ratings and German officers locked themselves into a secure citadel during the attack, from where they called for naval assistance. The pirates left when an Australian frigate arrived.
  • Pirates approached the Israeli-owned, Liberian-flagged Zim Asia off Yemen on 2 January but the ship increased speed and evaded capture.

However, there was better news for the 22 crew (19 Indians, two Bangladeshis and one Ukrainian) of the hijacked German-owned, Marshall Islands-flagged tanker Marida Mar­guerite who was released on 28 December after having been held hostage since 8 May. A reported ransom of US$5.5 million was paid to secure the ship’s release.

As the wave of piracy from Somali contin­ues, the International Maritime Organization’s 2011 campaign “Piracy – orchestrating the response” is set to be considered by the United Nations in February.

Meanwhile, the slowly emerging legal response to piracy is building up after years of interna­tional difficulties in bringing cases. Following recent trials of Somali pirates and defendants in the USA and Germany, a trial has now opened in the Netherlands of five alleged pirates arrested by a Dutch Navy warship in October 2010. This followed the capture of a South African yacht with three crew, one of whom later escaped.

According to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre, Somali pirates continue to hold hostage 27 vessels and 625 seafarers. The longest-held captives are the six Yemeni crew from the Yemeni-owned Socotra 1 seized on 25 December 2009 in the Gulf of Aden.

In other recent incidents reported to the worldwide Piracy Reporting Centre:

  • Five armed pirates fired on a vessel 205 nautical miles off Oman on 6 January, damaging the accommodation block. The captain increased speed, took eva­sive maneuvers and managed to evade the attempted boarding.
  • Five armed pirates fired on a bulk carrier 220 nautical miles off Oman on 6 January. The captain increased speed, took evasive maneuvers and evaded the attempted boarding.
  • Pirates in two skiffs opened fire on a tanker 430 nautical miles off Mumbai, In­dia on 3 January but the vessel evaded a boarding through anti-piracy measures.
  • Armed pirates fired on a tanker 575 nau­tical miles off Socotra Island on 1 Janu­ary but the vessel evaded capture through increasing speed and taking evasive maneuvers.
  • Armed pirates chased a tug off Somalia on 1 January but abandoned the attack after the tug increased speed and a secu­rity team on board fired flares.
  • Six armed pirates attempted to board a chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden on 1 January but the vessel evaded the hijack through evasive maneuvers and anti-piracy measures.
  • Twelve armed pirates fired on a tug 672 nautical miles off Somalia on 1 January but the vessel evaded hijack through evasive maneuvers and anti-piracy measures.

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